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Pakistani Government Says Power-sharing Talks Ongoing

The government of Pakistan said Thursday that President Pervez Musharraf has not decided to step down as army chief, contradicting former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Margaret Warner reports from Pakistan on the developments.

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    Margaret Warner is in Pakistan reporting for us on the power struggles there. She talked earlier today with Judy Woodruff from the city of Lahore.


    Margaret, thank you for talking with us. First, there's an announcement from Benazir Bhutto that there's been a deal to share power. Then, Musharraf's people say that's not so. What's going on?


    Well, Judy, at midnight last night here in Pakistan, both sides were saying they were this close to a deal. Bhutto was saying 90 percent; the Musharraf people were saying it was a very advanced stage.

    But there were a couple of sticking points, and this has to do, of course, with moving Pakistan from military to civilian rule. So this morning in the paper, what you had was dueling headlines, one saying that Musharraf was ready to give up his "skin," what he once called his uniform, his skin, and the other one saying that there were sticking points that were delaying the deal.

    I think what we're seeing here is the classic law of negotiating, which is nothing's agreed until everything's agreed.


    So it's not unraveling, or maybe it is?


    The longer it hangs out there, 90 percent done but not done, the more the different parties start picking at it. And this is a very complicated deal that would have him shed the uniform but be re-elected as a civilian president and Bhutto and the other exiled former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, be able to return and run in the parliamentary elections. One of them might be prime minister.

    But there are people in her center-left party who don't like it. They've been grumbling for a while about her dealing with this, quote, "dictator." And then today, as details of, outlines of the deal leaked out, then they were louder rumbles for members of his party and some of the coalition that he depends on in parliament, including the Islamic parties, including the party that essentially runs Karachi, that he might not be able to count on their votes.

    And so, as I said, the longer it hangs out there, the harder it may get to accomplish. Meanwhile, the outlier, Nawaz Sharif, is saying he'll have nothing of a deal that lets Musharraf stay on as president. He's made announcements he's coming here September 10th, no doubt to a hero's welcome, risking being detained on old charges. And one of his advisers from London said to me last night, you know, this is way too little, too late. We're beyond that. This isn't going to save Musharraf.